On Love and Fear in Motherhood

mother and child

He pulled in close to me and nestled his head in the crook of my arm.  These simple displays of affection are some of my most treasured moments in this life.  I am his mother and he is the healthy child I dreamed into existence after the birth of my daughter with a rare genetic disorder.  He is brilliant, exuberant, affectionate, and unapologetically his unique, seven year old, self.

He has healed me and broke me.  And, with his help, I have grown into the authentic and unapologetic mother both my children need.

When he was born, I was a mother with a deep-running crevasse through my soul.  Shattered by the ever growing medical complexities of our daughter, I could not imagine motherhood that was more than survival.  Only 20 months younger than his sister, I was still in shock and grieving the loss of the motherhood I imagined.

My early motherhood was ruled by fear.  The deep and enduring love I had for my children terrified me.  Love is both light and dark–powerfully abiding affection and compelling fear of loss.  I was stuck in the terrifying shadow of loss.  Even his heathy birth did not pull me from the precipice of anxious mothering.  When something rare and devastating happens to one of your children it can seem as though that soul shattering devastation is what one can expect.

When he was an infant, I spent many-a-night stripping him naked and inspecting him for any signs that he might have the same rare disease as his sister.  I did not understand the calm mothers who surrounded me; I could not comprehend why they told me to relax or their gentle reminders that he was healthy.

Yet, as he grew and surpassed milestones his sister was yet to achieve, I realized that mothering in fear was a choice.  Time and fate would march forever onward and nothing I did would change that.  In the meantime, sidled right next to that fear was the warmth and ease of adoration.  I need to choose to appreciate both.

His ease and health healed me.  Then suddenly broke me again as accepting his bounty highlighted my daughter’s loss.  I emerged in the in-between and my motherhood blossomed.  And as time passed, I was continually broken and healed a-new with each passing phase.  When he began speaking sentences, went off to kindergarten, to the day he asked me what would happen when my husband and I die and would he have to take care of his big sister.

As a mother I am fierce, deeply loving, silly, reserved, playful, regimented, anxious, confident, unapologetic, fearful, and resilient.

I am the mother I am because of all that my children have gifted me.

 

 

 

On Fear

On Fear
Some weeds are beautiful

The grass was long and uneven; weeds grew thick and straggly in the landscaping.  The sight got under my skin like the tiny bits of hot sand from the driveway that worked their way in when I decided not to wear shoes to run and grab the mail.  The asphalt burned underfoot; I concentrated on its heat to distract me from the messy exterior, but more so to distract me from the intensity swirling within.

I wanted to tear at the plants, ripping them away until our house looked manicured again.  I wanted to return inside to a home that was orderly and neat.  There was a rising scream that filled my chest like the steam expanding in an over-full pressure cooker heated too vigorously, but it never escaped.  

Our life is unseemly and wild like the weeds that grew in fits and spurts crowding out the manicured beauty of the landscaping.  It is hot and bothersome like the asphalt with little sand rock pebbles that pushed and singed.  But none of that exterior change would change anything.  In the end our fears are generally not about that which is without but that which is within.  

I fear I am not enough to parent the extraordinary and tame the wild.

***

They are within me and with out me; I grew their tiny bodies inside of mine where they shed cells that will forever circulate within me.  Our relationship is soft and silky yet impossibly strong like an invisible cord that tethers us to each other.  I’ve relied on this bond, read the small telegraphing movements of the cord, since before they drew their first breaths.  The bond is strong and primal, as old as the mother-child relationship itself.  I trust our fettered souls.  They have changed me at a fundamental level.

Yet, I do not trust myself; that I am enough, that I can do enough, that I love enough, that I see enough, that I have fought enough, that I have done enough, that I will be able to save her.  That I will be able to save her.  The rising scream that filled my chest was born the day I was first introduced to her immense need—the words Tuberous Sclerosis Complex.  

When fear looms as large as the weeds ready to overtake my hedge, I must remember, that my tether is to my children and not the devastating and incurable disease that has ravaged our girl.  There is no way for one person to be enough in the face of all of that.  But, there is one thing that is enough in this world and that is love.  It is that which wove the cord between us.  If only I breathe and approach it all with love the fear will lessen; and someday I will feel safe enough to release the sobbing scream that keeps me chained to the fear.